Garden gnomes of the world, unite!

French group fights to liberate ceramic statues.

Published April 21, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

You may not know this, but garden gnomes are all the rage in Paris. The
colorful, gaudy gnomes, which some find cute and others find repulsive, were
invented in eastern Germany in the 1870s and have become something of a
status symbol in French gardens.

Last month, Paris' chic Bagatelle gardens opened the country's first
exhibit dedicated to the gnomes. The exhibit featured 2,000 of the elfin
figures, carefully placed amid the peonies and lilac bushes.

And then the Garden Gnome Liberation Front struck.

According to a Reuters report, 20 of the gnomes were stolen during a
nighttime raid. The Garden Gnome Liberation Front
claimed responsibility, and said it would strike again unless the
exhibit was closed and all of the gnomes released. "We demand," the group's
statement said, "that garden gnomes are no longer ridiculed and that they be
released into their natural habitat."

Organizers of the exhibit have said they will not bow to the front's
demands, but the front is not a group to be trifled with. In 1997, it was
fined for the disappearance of some 150 gnomes. And in 1998, a "mass
suicide" of gnomes in the city of Briey in eastern France was attributed to the group.

The 11 gnomes were discovered hanging by their necks under a bridge,
their little bodies swaying in the wind. A letter found nearby explained,
"When you read these few words we will no longer be part of your selfish
world, where we serve merely as pretty decoration."

By J.A. Getzlaff

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